A series of Budget 2018 moves to protect and enhance primary industries and the reputation of the New Zealand product abroad have been welcomed by Hawke's Bay farmer and environmentalist Bruce Wills.

But, in a budget he described as "very ho-hum" from a rural perspective, there are "some pretty small crumbs" in a reprioritising of the spend, which has seen the axing of $40 million in irrigation scheme support.

"It is chicken feed for the challenges we've got," he said, while generally commending Minister of Finance Grant Robertson for being "reasonably fiscally responsible."

New commitments announced yesterday include $38 million over two years to address what the Government believes has been underfunding of the Ministry for Primary Industries(MPI), and over the next four years $15 million to support the Sustainable Farming Fund, and $9.3 million to improve offshore biosecurity systems to better manage risks posed by imports.


It also includes $5 million to boost the science behind New Zealand nutrient use and greenhouse gas emissions farm management tool Overseer, the intellectual property of which is jointly-owned by the MPI, corporatised Crown entity AgResearch, and the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand.

Other new funding previously approved by the new Government included $95 million to control mycoplasma, first detected last July but now found in at least 38 herds of cattle, mainly in the South Island but including one in Hawke's Bay which had to send 700 bulls to the slaughterhouse.

In December, in the first few weeks of the new coalition, $10 million was committed, and $85 million was approved at the start of March, together meeting estimated 2017-2018 costs of tracking and tracing the spread of the disease and paying compensation to farmers.

Also previously announced was the $81.3 million over four years for predator control.

Wills said while farmers as businesses are "good at getting on with it and looking after themselves", the m. bovis crisis is set to cost a lot more, to both the industry and the Government.

The industry has already pushed more than $11 million towards the partnership with the Government in the control project, but former Federated Farmers national president Wills said it could cost the country up to $1 billion if it were to eradicate.

"I guess we will hear more about that in the next fortnight or so," he said.

"M. bovis can't be underestimated," he said. "It's going to cost all farmers a significant amount of money, and ultimately it could cost us on an ongoing basis if we can't contain it."


Wills said the extra resources for the Sustainable Farming Fund recognises the impact of projects from which the country has benefited, but it is clear more support is justified.

In the last funding round, there were 86 eligible applications but only 28 could be accepted.

He said the dedication to predator control was for Department of Conservation land, but there was another two-thirds of the country for which farmers were mainly responsible and "expected to pick up the tab" on behalf of the nation.